SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

WANG Wenlu “Minorities at the time of emergency”


One year has already passed with the outbreak of corona virus and our daily life has changed completely. We are in cold season now and the number of infected persons in the world is increasing. Recently we, foreigners in Japan, felt distress at a certain news. The Japanese government stopped foreign researchers to enter into Japan, when the new variant of the coronavirus was confirmed. In the middle of August 2020, when I expected to return to my parent’s home or go abroad for my overseas survey, the Government decided to ease restrictions of foreigners to enter Japan and foreign researchers were accepted in our workplace.


At the beginning of March 2020, I went to America for my survey and research and attended a learned society. It was the time when the COVID-19 pandemic spread in China (and Italy too), but in America, there were no restriction and I could attend a learned academy. During one week after my entrance to America, I could access to any libraries without any trouble. At the middle of March, however, universities were closed and we were requested to refrain going outside. Every day, I checked entry restriction in the homepages of Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and requested airline companies to prepone my flight to Japan. Luckily enough, I could return to Japan before entry restrictions. Government asked the people, who returned to Japan, not to use public transportation and home quarantine themselves for two weeks. I could remember those days clearly when I felt uneasiness and panic. I could not go back to my house and meet my family because I am a foreigner in Japan. It affected much of my friends too.


“In Japan it is foreigners who are forsook first when there is something.”

“It will be the same everywhere in the world.”


When I complained to my family, above was the answer. It is certain that modern societies are formed by the frame of “nation-state”.  Each one of us belong to certain groups and are defined by those groups. Ofcourse, there are refugees who do not belong to any nations or multinational people. Real image is complicated.  For the people who go to foreign countries, they have to be minorities in population. If there are differences in color of skin or in speaking majority, such differences would be distinct. Due to such differences, they ought to be misunderstood or discriminated. Especially in an emergency like recent COVID-19 pandemic, such severe circumstances which minority people are put become distinct. 


When I was in America, I did not wear a face mask when I out though I knew spread of infections . It was because I did not like to be involved in troubles at sight. At that time, according to news reports, Asian people, who wore face masks in the world were misunderstood to be caught by the coronavirus and had violence against them.


According to “STOP AAPI HATE” platform, which was built by a non-Government organization and university officials in California for the purpose for Asian American or Pacific Islanders who could report when they receive violence, 1843cases were filed within eight weeks in between of March when this platform started.  It is said that 8.1% out of 1843 cases is physical violence and the reason, according to respondents, are masks or clothing. There are other platforms, which transmit, gather information and analyze discrimination against Asian people.  “Sinophonia Tracker” (operated by overseas Chinese researcher), “I Am Not a Virus”(campaigned by Australian non-Government organization).

Hashtag on “JeNeSuisPasUnVirus” on SNS is drawing attention also.


All the platform mentioned above are having all eyes about treatment of Asian people, including Chinese. On the other hand, there were reports that African immigrants in Guangdong, China had to be left compulsory by landlords and were quarantined despite of non-infection. There were other reports in India. Mongoloid people, who came from North Eastern Region and skin color is akin to Chinese and Muslims who are social minority and were violated or discriminated in non-Muslim countries. Discrimination itself has no direct relation with infectious diseases. Existing discrimination issue were disclosed furthermore by infections. Historically speaking, in the time of crisis, there have been elimination or attack on minorities which did not belong to their own group. We remember the Massacre of Koreans after Great Kanto Earthquake (of 1923) in Japan and in non-Muslim countries hostility against Muslim (minorities in population) after the synchronized terrorist attacks 9-11 in America.


I think however, majority or minority is very flexible and depend on time and space. I myself, who live in Japanese society as a foreigner belong to the minority but as Chinese, who residing are majority as foreigners in Japan. Since it is difficult to distinguish us from Japanese by appearance, we may be able to camouflage as Japanese who are majority in Japan and

if can speak Japanese language fluently. I think it very arbitrary to categorize by nationalities or skin colors.


Amid pandemic of the COVID-19, there became few reports which are hostile to certain groups recently. However, we cannot forget any “otherings” easily which can be seen in many countries or areas in varying degrees in one level or another. In near future, there may be other pandemics on global scale and the human race may suffer from various disasters.


I hope we could keep our tolerance looking back on the COVID-19 this time.


WANG Wehlu / 2019 Raccoon   



SGRA Kawaraban 656 in Japanese (Original)



Translated by Kazuo Kawamura

English checked by Sabina Koirala